Devata is a continuation of Sothea’s first sculptural series, Manu (2015). Manu, from “មនុ”, the Khmer word for “humanity”, presented sculptures made from hemp, iron, and steel in a representation of human development. Whereas Manu sought to embody humankind through earthen materials and anthropomorphic features, Devata progresses beyond such forms through greater focus on the beauty found in the divine.
Although Devata comes from the Hindu term for “deity,” the word “ទេវតា” in Khmer signifies female deities, or angels, in particular. While the figures of Manu suggest a deified realm, Devata extends this sentiment through sculptural emphasis on displays of peace and inherent power. As the higher progression of Manu, the figures of Devata are similarly made from hemp, iron, and steel, but Sothea seeks to alter their forms to empower them with a greater sense of sacral energy.
In Devata, Sothea retains the global aesthetic of his contemporary works while moving deeper into traditional Khmer culture as a source of inspiration. The design therefore draws on the clothing of traditional performers, the crowns of royalty, and the gestures of dancers. Sothea references classical statues of various deities, noting the way in which the relatively simple figures stand tall and affirmed in their inner strength and sense of peace. The forms of Devata replicate this feeling of divinity derived out of simplicity. As the anthropomorphic works of Manu displayed terrestrial material imbued with some higher power, the angels of Devata command attention through simple beauty and inner grace.
Devata is currently on display, from 15 October to 8 November, 2015, at Alliance Française in Bangkok, Thailand.